“I returned a rental car two days earlier – and I was charged double” | Consumer affairs

When Mike Howorth’s brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the Australian national arranged to travel to the UK to care for him and booked a Hertz rental car to use during his stay. Three weeks after his arrival, his brother passed away and Mike returned to his family in Australia.

The rental car had been reserved for 28 days and Howorth returned the vehicle two days earlier to catch his return flight. He later found out he had been charged more than double the rental price of £ 617. Contacting Hertz he was told his bill included an additional £ 670 as he had terminated the contract earlier.

“I don’t understand how they can charge a customer more to rent a car for less time,” Howorth says. “I was in the UK because my brother was dying, so I didn’t know how long I would need a car. If he had lived longer, maybe I should have returned the car and rented a new one.

Car rental companies are notorious for funding great deals with hidden extras: insurance, upgrades that weren’t requested, expensive fuel policies, and sudden charges for unexplained damage can add up to hundreds. of books at the rental price indicated.

Howorth’s 109% fee increase was, according to Hertz, part of a policy to keep prices low.

“To offer our customers competitive rates and to manage our fleet, we have implemented minimum and maximum daily rental rates,” said a spokesperson for the company. “This means that the longer a customer rents a vehicle, the lower the daily rate will be. However, this only applies when customers keep the vehicle for the expected rental period.

When Mike Howorth picked up and returned the vehicle, no charges were mentioned. Photography: Mike Howorth

Howorth’s untimely departure resulted in the deletion of his 28-day special and the recalculation of the rental at a different daily rate to reflect the time the car was in his possession.

Many customers sign for their vehicle keys without reading the fine print, which can contain expensive commitments they are not aware of. However, even the most careful examination of documents sent to customers would not have warned Howorth that a prompt return would push the price up from £ 617 to £ 1,288, as Hertz did not go into details.

“The four page email confirming my reservation mentions on page four of the rental terms and conditions that ‘early or late return charges may apply,'” said Howorth. “He asks customers to check the terms and conditions. There is no mention of it in the rest of the document, nor of a link to other T & Cs.

No charges were also mentioned when Howorth picked up and returned the vehicle.

A Google search produces a web page called Your Complete Guide to Car Rental with Hertz, which mentions the possibility of late return costs but does not say anything about the costs of an early return. A search for early return charges on the Hertz homepage brings up the warning that customers will not be refunded for pre-booked rental days if they return their vehicle early. There isn’t a whisper about the recalculated daily charge.

Hertz told Guardian Money that the charge was “clearly described” in the terms and conditions of its website, although we couldn’t find a document there. He has sent a link to a booklet that is available to customers when they access his “review and reserve” page. Customers are advised that there may be a charge for an early return, but they are not provided with any details on how they will be calculated or when they will be applied.

According to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association trade body, it is common for rental companies to use flexible pricing models based on the length of a reservation, but additional charges should be reasonable and clearly stated.

“The rental operator should make it clear at the time of booking and on the rental agreement if any potential changes to the offered rate may be incurred,” a spokesperson said. “In the case of a vehicle returned earlier than scheduled, we encourage our members to take into account any extenuating circumstances and to ensure that any changes are justified.”

Hertz was unmoved when Howorth explained his brother’s death and restrictive quarantine rules in place in Australia at the time, leaving him little leeway for his flight home.

“There were reduced caps on the number of residents allowed to return to Australia, and the media were talking about people struggling to return before Christmas,” he said. “Once you managed to get permission to travel, you then had to do about forty two-week hotels, which meant I was away from my family for six weeks in total, including a little one. child born during my absence. I couldn’t afford to wait.

A customer service agent assured him that he aimed to resolve his concerns to ensure that he had an “extraordinary experience” on his next visit, then said the charge could not be changed. It wasn’t until the Guardian questioned the transparency of Hertz’s terms and conditions and reminded him of the BVRLA code of conduct that the company gave in. He admitted that circumstances such as Howorth’s should be considered on a “case-by-case basis” and refunded the £ 670 as a “goodwill gesture”, although he always insisted the policy was clearly stated in the contract.

But when asked again to produce this clear warning, a spokesperson said: “We plan to revise our terms and conditions to make it even clearer to our customers than changing the time of day. Returning a rental with us may result in a recalculation of their rate and additional charges. charges. “

How Car Rental Companies Can Separate You From Your Money

Damage repairs

These are unexpected and unexplained charges to a customer’s credit card after they have returned their rental vehicle. The excuse is most often damage and often there are few details about the alleged problem and no cost breakdown for the repairs. Customers who knew they had damaged their vehicle can be charged exorbitant amounts for repairs that never get done. Leicester Trading Standards is in the fourth year of an investigation into Europcar’s alleged overcharging for repairs.

A car overturned in a pole
It is a good idea to take out additional insurance to cover the usually very high deductible in case something goes wrong. Photograph: clivestock / Alamy

When borrowing a car, be sure to take a good look, photograph any faults, and make sure they are recorded by the company. When returning, check the car with customer service if you can and take other photos showing its condition.

Unnecessary insurance

This is how low budget businesses make their money. All rentals include basic insurance, but customers are tricked or coerced into purchasing unwanted and unnecessary additional coverage to reduce high excess liability, when recovering their vehicle. A reader, who had purchased £ 20 insurance from a third party, was asked to sign a blank screen to confirm a £ 110 rental agreement and later found out he had committed to a policy from £ 500 for a 10 day rental.

It is a good idea to take out additional insurance to cover the usually very high deductible in case something goes wrong. However, it is much cheaper to purchase a standalone policy from a broker before traveling. Decent companies will accept that you have your own coverage, but when asked to sign the rental agreement, check what you’re signing for and never sign a blank screen.

Unfair fuel policies

Full-empty is a lucrative trick – the customer collects the car with a full tank and leaves it empty. The companies are betting that no driver will return it with a completely empty tank – and they charge extra to fill it up when the rental begins.

Rental companies will usually give you the option of refueling – you get a full tank and must return the vehicle with the same. The company won’t charge you for the initial gasoline and you should be able to get a better deal on the refill.

Someone is filling a car with unleaded gasoline
Companies are banking on the fact that no driver will return a vehicle with a completely empty tank. Photograph: Nathan Stirk / Getty Images

Mysterious accusations

Exorbitant amounts can be stealthily deducted for additions, including extra cleaning, senior (or youth) driver fees, and extra mileage. There’s not much you can do for the other two, but you might be able to avoid ending up with an expensive cleaning bill by vacuuming the car quickly before returning it. Some car rental customers said they were charged to clean things like sand or mud from their feet, which they could have removed themselves.

Late To recover

This catches customers who book a vehicle from an airport depot. If they forget to provide their flight number or are unable to notify the rental company that they are delayed, they may find that their vehicle has been handed over to another customer and they are not being refunded. Some companies reassign cars if a customer is only an hour late, earning double the money for a single rental period.

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